More and more people talk about a low carbon economy or the expressions “zero-carbon” or “ neutral carbon”. But what exactly do these terms mean?

By Writing Team
Posted in January 6, 2022

In general terms, a low carbon economy is the name used for an economy based on sustainable actions, mainly focused on reducing or even sequestering the greenhouse gases (GHG) generated in the production chain, resulting in less environmental impact.

With the discussion on climate change appearing with greater urgency, the theme of sustainable development is constantly on the agenda, demanding initiatives from companies and civil society. One of them is precisely the entry into the so-called low-carbon economy. 

Meaning of “low carbon”

In the expression low carbon economy, the word carbon is used to simplify and represent all the gases that, when emitted into the atmosphere, are responsible for the greenhouse effect on the planet.

Thus, the so-called greenhouse gases (GHG) comprise a variety of gases, including those used for refrigeration, gases from the decomposition of organic matter, nitrogenated, fluorinated, chloradose, carbon dioxide, also called carbonic gas. This is the most representative of all. To facilitate understanding and the impacts that these gases together influence the planet’s global warming, experts have determined a term called equivalence. The equivalence is chemical and also refers to the global warming power of each of these gases. What does that mean? It sounds complicated, but it isn’t! This is just one way to simplify and measure the impact of each of the GHGs, converting them to CO2 equivalent. To better understand, let’s take an example: every day we generate tons of organic waste in our Brazilian cities. And what is the destination of this waste? The vast majority are destined for landfills and, in many cases, the so-called dumps. In these places, the inappropriate disposal and handling of waste generate an immense amount of methane. If this gas is not recovered, for example, generating electricity or even burning, it ends up being emitted into the atmosphere. And where is the problem? Quite simply, as we saw earlier, the global warming power for methane gas is 28 times greater than that of CO2, impacting our planet absurdly more.

Thus, a low-carbon economy is formed by a set of activities that, compared to the traditional production method, emit less GHG, in order to reduce the impact of global warming on the planet.

How to get into the low carbon economy? 

There are a number of measures to be taken to reduce the carbon emissions of a company or organization. Among them are, for example: 

  • replacement of all or most of the energy matrix for energy generated from renewable resources (such as solar or wind energy);
  • entry into the circular economy: adoption of reverse logistics, that is, collection, recycling and reuse of materials that would be discarded as garbage and dumped in landfills, avoiding the extraction of virgin natural resources;
  • Research and development in valuing the waste generated, transforming them into new products;
  • more sustainable management of land used for agriculture and grazing; 
  • Consumption of products from the circular economy;
  • Regeneration of degraded areas and preservation of forests;
  • better logistical planning to reduce or even replace the use of fossil fuels;
  • Recycling programs aimed at the final consumer through awareness and benefits campaigns;
  • Structuring a policy for monetizing the contributions to reducing emissions in the value chain involved. 

The measures to be adopted by each organization depend a lot on the segment in which it operates and the type of impact produced by its activities. There are industries in which the environmental imbalance is intrinsically linked to the core business, such as mining, cellulose, the oil, and gas sector. In other sectors, a process adjustment already enables a significant reduction in the impact on the environment.

The first step is a deep understanding of all the steps in which a company operates, in order to identify at which points in the chain it would be possible to implement change and improve processes aimed at reducing carbon.

Even though it is sometimes an implementation process with varying degrees of complexity, the benefits can already start to be reaped early in the transformation journey. 

Why be part of the low carbon economy?

The journey towards decarbonization is not just about idealized sustainability actions. It is a humanistic vision engaging a financial vision. Entering or not the logic of the low carbon economy will not be an alternative soon.

Global trends point to the need to think about the sustainability of the economy and to the urgent need for companies and organizations to worry about the imprint they leave on the environment and society.

While regulations are being improved in different spheres, the trend is that tightening and inspection will increase. Thus, moving ahead in complying with international laws and parameters is not only a competitive advantage but can also represent savings in potential legal implications, such as fines or audits, as well as reputational damage.

The low carbon economy also creates the opportunity to take advantage of available incentives and subsidies, thus generating a financial return for the business. This kind of tangible return is measurable and makes this transformation economically advantageous in the short term as well.

In addition to acting sustainably and having the possibility of financial returns for this, entering the low-carbon economy also adds value to a company’s brand.

The focus on sustainable development can be a strategic communication asset, used by marketing and branding areas to incorporate value into the organizational culture, positioning companies as aligned with their time and social aspirations. In addition to bringing benefits in the relationship with partners, prospecting for customers and investors.

The other reason, if not the most important, is conscientious consumption, where consumers increasingly demand the traceability of the entire value chain of a good or product. Forcing companies to demand that their suppliers also reduce their carbon footprint and also that companies create more and more products and services that are committed to the climate. 

Low carbon economy: before and after

As seen, in general terms, the low carbon economy encourages practices and processes that allow for sustainable development, making it possible to reduce GHG emissions. It is important to emphasize that the applied concept of a low carbon economy is always thought of in comparative terms, that is, comparing gas emissions from a previous scenario with emissions from a scenario after the implementation of improvements and sustainable solutions.

It is only possible to know whether there has actually been a reduction in the emission of gases from a given economic activity if there is a comparative basis. For example, with a careful strategy and implementation process, an organization that started to adopt an energy matrix of renewable sources, replacing emitting energy sources, will effectively be able to know how much it has reduced its emissions and, thus, measure the benefits caused by this action sustainable.

Ambipar, with its more than 25 years of experience, has the expertise to identify the points with potential for improvement in the reduction of gas emissions within your company and then implement the most appropriate measures to carry out this transformation and optimization process. for a low carbon economy.

Contact one of our experts and understand how our solutions portfolio can contribute to increasing your company’s sustainability, bringing the benefits and returns that exist in taking the path of a low carbon economy.